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Getting Heavy – Meet Finland’s Heavy Metal Costume Designer

Finland – known for its saunas, first-class education system, and having the most heavy-metal bands per capita. With this in mind, we got in touch with one of Finland’s ‘go-to’ heavy metal costume designers and the countries most exciting up and coming garment creator Nina Korento to talk about her career and her work to date.

Having been in the business over 10 years, Nina’s costume artistry can mainly be seen within the music industry – flying the flag for Finland’s metal obsession. Some of her most high-profile clients include American power-metal band Kamelot, Canadian head-bangers Kobra and the Lotus, and most recently veteran metal-heads W.A.S.P.

Nina has recently started to expand into theatre and Film – this summer she designed and made costumes for the play Sudenmorsian and for a zombie movie Amme.

We took some time out to chat with Nina, one of Finland’s most exciting up-and-coming costume designers.

How did you get into working as a costume artist? 

I drew my first costumes as a child and had thought about it already by then. The 80’s fantasy movies and cartoons really made a visual impact on me. As a teenager when I saw Peizerat and Anissina perform their Notre Dame de Paris skating act, I finally sealed the deal with myself that this is what I had to do.

What inspires your work and how would you describe what you do?

I’m inspired particularly by strange formations of surfaces in nature, in the city, in everyday life. I might stare at some strange vegetable for minutes just because its insides have made tiny tunnels or other formations. Or how rain acts on different surfaces in the city. My style is very surface based, but for the shapes itself, I am often inspired by history and fairytales. I love the late Victorian patterns and especially art nouveau.


You have worked for heavy metal artists quite a lot, how did this come about?

In Finland, not many [people] worked on music stage costumes at the beginning of the 2000’s. First hip hop artists needed styling, but eventually, I found metal on my playlists and realized I might have something to give visually to that genre. Korpiklaani was my first client and when Kamelot discovered me, through NRJ Fashion awards 2005, my career was sealed in that direction – I’m still happily there.

What is your experience working as a costume artist in Finland?

The circles here are quite small and my style is actually not that asked for here (which is strange I know, because so much metal comes from my country). I think it’s mainly because I started at a moment when the classic [metal] bands like Nightwish already had made it big and had found their stylists. The newer, more pop sounding artist now surfacing, don’t need this style. So I’m concentrating mostly on foreign customers. Luckily now the Finnish movie world has discovered me, so I might have a shot at succeeding here on a new road.

Tell us a bit about your background?

I’m kind of third generation poor – the war in my grandparents’ youth made them poor, and the depression of the economy in the 90’s in Finland made my parents poor. Now I’m a poor millennial and, like many of my age group, the economy does not really provide us with chances to succeed right now. I didn’t have the same opportunity as others to start my career care-freely. As a teenager, we had times when we barely ate. I also pushed my basic studies as far as high school (for the need of money – high school papers = work), when my career would’ve actually needed me to stop and go straight to costume studies. I’m also still too scared of big sums of money – I have no idea how to make such numbers or handle them, I believe that fear has pulled my career back a lot.

What designers or artists inspire you?

From the side of fashion, Alexander McQueen is amazing, and on the side of more theatrical visuals, I truly love Colleen Atwood’s style. From art nouveau, I love Alphonso Mucha, and from music, I find David Bowie and Michael Jackson always inspiring.

You have started working in theatre and film. What differences have you found between those areas of work and the music industry?

I had experience of shooting music videos for long hours. That gave me a great head-start for movie sets, that way many things did not come as a surprise. I think the biggest difference was the higher need for call sheets and things on paper – usually, a music video is 2:00-5:00 mins long with one costume on each artist. Now I had to handle several costumes for several people and the rhythm of what is needed when.

On theatre, the connection with actors becomes much stronger – we spend a lot more time together. And again there are more costumes to handle per person. The need for costume changes is one of the biggest frames for my work. Myself, the director and the actor try to find as fast as possible the needs that each character technically require from the costumes – sometimes new things come up very close to the premiere! Then I have to put my all into making the costume work in a new way.

What are the upsides, and downsides of the work you do?

The best bit is that I can do what I love – this is like oxygen to me. I love the flow I go into when I see my ideas work and the art almost speaks to me, telling me where it wants to go. I believe I have great talent, and through it, I can give so much to other people. The downside is the hours – sometimes the number of working hours is unhealthy, and my personal life might shut down completely. This is extremely stressful, particularly as my fiance has MS, a condition that also takes a lot of strength and time from the partner.

What would be your perfect project?

Oh my. I would say working for Henson, Frouds or Lucas, who made my favorite movie Labyrinth, would be a dream come true. I hope there is never a Labyrinth 2, but if there is, I really want the job! I would also love to work for Tim Burton, but Colleen Atwood is already doing such a great job so I think I’m not needed! On the side of metal, designing for Amy Lee would be a dream come true.

Are you working in the music industry as a stylist or designer? We would love to hear from you. Get in touch.

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